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Rogue Wave with The Boxer Rebellion - Union Transfer (Philadelphia) - Tuesday, June 18, 2013

20 June 2013

The last time that Rogue Wave played here in Philadelphia, it was in the environs of the cozier (and sweatier, even in March) sanctuary of the First Unitarian Church (review here).

3 years later, they are back with a new album (the lovely Nightingale Floors) and a new label (Vagrant) more known (at least in their early days) for pop-punk, though in the last decade artists like Paul Westerberg and The Hold Steady have been on the label as well. In addition, it appears that in addition to mainstays Zach Rogue on vocals and guitar and Pat Spurgeon on drums, they have an entirely new backing band.

What was weird about their set is that it seemed like more people were there to see openers The Boxer Rebellion (more on them below) than were there to see Rogue Wave, who headlined the show and have a history that goes back longer (over a decade at this point). Perhaps it wasn’t so weird, though, as despite consistently excellent, hook-filled songwriting, Rogue Wave has never broken through to the indie mainstream and they also haven’t released an Lp in over 3 years (an eternity in this day and age).

Regardless, the folks who stayed were treated to a short but very sweet and well-chosen set full of material both from Nightingale Floors as well as older nuggets like the incredible “Love’s Lost Guarantee” (from 2005’s Descended Like Vultures) and the career zenith “Chicago X12” (from 2007’s Asleep at Heaven’s Gate). The fact that they chose to play my two favorite songs in their entire catalog shows that they can pick a setlist, and the inclusion of semi-hits “Lake Michigan” and “California” (featured in an episode of the TV show The OC way back in 2006 or so) didn’t hurt, either!

As for the new stuff, the highlight was new single “College.” What comes through most of all, much like the incredible 2010 show here (see the link above), is how much they enjoy playing music and how incredibly passionate they are on stage. The joy just permeates their very essence as Rogue and Spurgeon even stayed at the merch table after the show to chat with fans and sign posters and album booklets. What mensches and what a great band! If they’re anywhere near you and you can make it, don’t miss them!

Openers The Boxer Rebellion had a lot of pomp and circumstance and admittedly sounded absolutely fantastic at this always incredible-sounding venue, but with few tunes or hooks, they left me cold. They reminded me quite a bit of Coldplay, but with moments that edged towards more recent British post-punk like Editors and especially Frightened Rabbit and perhaps We Were Promised Jetpacks. They weren’t bad at all, but honestly they did nothing for me.